ne morning my mum and I woke up and my little sister was a bird, a pigeon. I can’t say we were entirely surprised, for weeks previously she had been pecking at her food and flapping her arms excitedly whenever someone entered a room. I’m not sure what it means but Mum says not to pay her any attention, ‘cause that’ll probably just encourage her. So when we sit down for dinner, we pretend not to notice the tiny grey feathers in the salad, the white goo dripping down the side of the chair. Still, it’s disturbing to watch her coo and preen, the loose fluff of her feathers floating through the kitchen. I wonder what it would be like to pull one out, tugging until it releases from her skin. When she was human, she was always grasping at my clothes, all my T-shirts were stretched because of how she gripped the edges. Too often, her sticky-sweet hands stained the fabric and I startled myself by how quickly I would shout at her. My voice loud and unrecognizable. After dinner, she flutters eagerly at the window-screen, trying to get outside. Before, she was always daydreaming, talking about places and people that didn’t exist. Sometimes she would talk about her other family, and her other sister. I was lonely then—I always felt like she was going to go somewhere. She is resting now, perched on the windowsill, staring at the brown grass and darkening sky. Her head jerkily bobbing side-to-side. Does she think she can leave? I wonder, feeling nervous about the times my mum forgets to close the door, or keeps it open a little too long bringing the groceries in. My sister is looking at me. Her bulging eyes seem hopeful as she glances back toward the window, spreading her wings and squawking excitedly at the outside. Mum always tells me that we only have each other to count on, and that’s why I grab the scissors off the hook on the kitchen wall, placing them in my back pocket. I lift my sister off the window’s ledge onto my lap, crouching, my back pressing against the baseboard heater. She wriggles gently between my palms, trying to free herself, so I stroke her feathers ‘till she settles. I like feeling the tiny weight of her. Lightly, I extend her wing. It trustingly unfolds outwards like a finger. I cradle her closer and retrieve the scissors from my pocket, gripping the orange handle, opening the long mouth of the shears.
During the summer of 2014, we held our inaugural Flash Fiction Contest with Kathleen Hale serving as judge. This story is one of Kathleen's winning selections.
Kate Barss is a writer and editor living in Toronto. Her work has previously appeared in The Hairpin, Qwerty, and Fathom Magazine.